Adolescence is a time when there are already strains being placed on oral health, yet the rapid rise of e-cigarette use among teenagers could be adding to potential issues such as gum disease. The teen years can see many wearing braces to correct teeth alignment issues, helping their oral care as they go forward, with straighter teeth being easier to clean and keep healthy.
Besides braces and the possibility of professional teeth whitening to further enhance their smile, they will also have their wisdom teeth come through. If there is not enough room for these third molars to develop then they will need specialised dental care.
Now a sharp rise in vaping sees another potential threat to oral care according to recent studies. Instead of being less harmful than regular cigarettes, the nicotine in e-cigarettes may still pose the same threat of gum disease. Also, as the vapours within the device are burned cells release inflammatory proteins. These proteins can aggravate the cells in the mouth which could lead to oral health problems. Studies also point to the flavouring chemicals within e-cigarettes compounding cell damage.
However, recent cases in the US have suggested further serious health problems may be linked to vaping. In a two-month period during 2019 there were 153 cases across 16 states of respiratory illness recorded which may be linked to e-cigarette use. Inflammation appears to be the cause of illness, resulting in fluid in the lungs. Tests showed the inflammation was not due to infection and so the possibility of it being connected to e-cigarette use is being explored. With 1 in 5 high school students in the US using e-cigarettes more research is required to evaluate the potential harm they may cause.
Researchers have stressed that these respiratory problems have not been linked to any specific device or flavoring chemical. Indeed, many of those who have been ill also admitted to recently using a marijuana containing product. Yet e-cigarettes do contain ultra-fine particles and oils which can be an irritant to the lungs, plus flavored vapor can contain diacetyl which has previously been linked to lung ailments in factory workers.
The teenagers who have been treated for respiratory problems have generally recovered, yet the concern is what the possible long-term effects might be. At present, until further research is carried out, the possibility of a link between vaping and health, including oral health, remains.